BH Interview: 'Battle Hymn' Playwright Battles Religious Intimidation, Theatrical Bias
Playwright Ludmilla Bollow considers herself a conservative at heart, but she doesn't inject her politics into her prose. When she heard about the Republican Theater Festival she decided to shake up her artistic approach.
Bollow's “Battle Hymn,” which premiered at the recently wrapped festival in Philadelphia, allowed the playwright to share her frustration over a real-life case of religious intimidation. The play involves a group of atheists trying to take down a statue of Jesus Christ on public property, a skirmish she watched in real time while visiting her son in Wisconsin.
Her play touches on a variety of subjects conservative audiences can embrace, from religion being taken away from our children to how some groups grow to fear mere symbols of spiritual expression.
“If it was a statue of Buddha would they have wanted to take it down?” she asks.
Bollow isn't anticipating a sea change of thought on the subject by virtue of her play, but she understands how the arts can impact more than just the ticket-holding audience. The Glendale, Wisc. resident watched last year how a liberal arts group supporting the recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker created an LED display saying, “Look Ma, I Recalled Walker.”
Not only did the local paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, offer glowing coverage of the protest, she says a Smithsonian curator was dispatched to Wisconsin to gather information about the protest for a possible future display.
Why is this art when it's merely more liberal politics in play, she wondered.
Having Bollow's “Battle Hymn” performed in a major city did more than helped address the artistic inequality in the largely liberal theatrical community. It forced the actors involved to consider a different perspective, she says. Actors must interpret the roles they play, be it a mother, a banker, a murderer or a working stiff.
So if you're playing a conservative, “you have to think like a conservative,” she says.
Bollow remains happy to be part of the first-ever Republican Theater Festival, but she wonders about the lingering impact it could have on her career in a field with such a massive liberal bent.
“If I put this on my resume, is that gonna hinder or help?” she asks.